Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oh Canada

I won't write much about the kid that was screaming, climbing over the seats, hanging in front of our video monitors, crawling down the aisle and more that was in the row in front of me. All nine hours of the flight. Or how unhelpful the customs agents were to everyone. One was downright rude to this one Japanese family. I'm not talking the usual serious look they have and I know they don't have to care at all. But this was beyond that. With no sleep I was stuck in the US Terminal at Vancouver Airport for hours before my flight to Portland. Along with the fact that it's a US Terminal but no one there will take US currency so if you want anything you either have to exchange and pay a fee just to get something from a vending machine or find a place that takes credit cards. Thought I would ask Information about it. The woman rudely laughed at me. Sorry lady but I've never been to Canada before and it's a US terminal (went through US customs even) so it's not a dumb question. Everyone working in that terminal made me never want to come back.

So with hours to wait and being extremely thirsty I ended up at Canuck's Bar and Grill. There aren't many food places in the US terminal, mostly crowded fast food sites. I was not feeling up to being jammed in with more people. I preferred a little space after nine hours of that.

Ordered an ice tea. Except only ice tea they had was sweetened. I normally don't sweeten my tea but the menu was limited. Not sure if the lemon was skewered because it was a bar and grill or if that is a thing in Canada.

Canucks signed hockey stick. I did say the name of the place was Canucks.

Even though I wasn't hungry I ended up ordering food because I was having to use my credit card. It was that or pay a big fee to exchange for a couple Canadian coins for a vending machine. The Blueberry french toast with real Canadian maple syrup wasn't bad and service at Canucks was decent.

Since there wasn't much to see in the US part of the terminal and I couldn't leave because then I would have to go through customs to go out and then again to come back in, I finished the one book I brought with me and accidentally fell asleep for about an hour. Flight back to Portland was good, excellent volcano viewing again. Mount St Helens from the air is amazing. Got my cats from the nice boarding lady, Kenji hollered the whole drive home.

Just want to say that I am sure Canada and most Canadians are very nice. Just don't think I will ever connect through that airport ever again.

So some final thoughts on my trip. Really stood out how Tokyo is so not ready for foreigners. While the JR Rail cars are good with providing station information, other private lines are badly lacking (Hibiya Line I'm looking at you). Some cars have no video screens. Announcements are only in Japanese and so low it's difficult to hear. When the cars get crowded it's impossible to see out the windows as to what station you are at. Narita Airport was pretty difficult to navigate this time even though I've been there before. They have a lot to do to prepare for the Olympics. The heat and humidity at that time is pretty extreme and a lot of people won't be use to it. I know after experiencing it.

There were good things.
meeting friend
getting to see new beautiful Moi meme Moitie & gothic clothing in person
finding surprises while wandering around
Japanese food (Hiroshima okonomiyaki definite highlight)
getting umami readjusted especially with katsuobushi
vending machines (can't count how many bottles of water I drank. it was a lot)
watching baseball (go Carp!)
riding trains

So compared to my other trips I have to say this was better than the March 2011 (no nuclear radiation to worry about). But it was difficult and there were places I didn't get to and others I wish I could have spent more time at. So I'm back to thinking about what I can fix. Also wanting to go to more concerts/lives. So back to hoping I can experience another trip to Japan or some place interesting.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I'll be Seeing You Narita

I haven't written a lot about the hotel I stayed in because it was not enjoyable. While they had a decent breakfast every morning and the people at the front desk were fine, the way things are done there was a little crazy. I've stayed at a few hotels and ryokan in Japan and none of them cleaned rooms the way this place did. Starting at 10 am they open all the rooms on a floor and clean all of them at the same time. This goes on till almost 4 pm.

That's right, you can't be in your room from 10 am to 4 pm on days they are cleaning. Even if it's a day where you aren't having cleaning done and want to sleep a little, it's not going to happen. There are loud speakers on every floor so employees can page each other during the cleaning time. Except the loud speakers are in all the rooms. Oh and check out is at 10 am.

Because of that I found myself traveling early to Narita Airport for my flight back home. Which wasn't till late afternoon. I could have left my bag at the hotel but it was so hot outside that I would not have a place to shower afterwards if I did go out and walked around. So I won't recommend that hotel to anyone planning a long stay in Japan. One or two nights maybe but that's it.

With lots of time to waste and feeling totally exhausted I dragged my suitcase around the airport till it was time to check it in. Then I sought out food.

Narita was still a zoo. Places I had eaten on previous trips were packed with people. So I decided to go for something quicker. Also thought it was time I finally ate ramen in Japan. So I headed for Ramen Kagetsu Arashi.

I went for that genkotsu miso ramen. It's the little sign on the left. I have to say they have it together in regard to handling high demand. I got my bowl and attempted to find a seat. Ended up getting one from a woman who was saving it and another for people who didn't show up until I was done eating. Had to give her a look just to get it. Not cool of her to do that when there weren't any free seats available.

At least I was able to sit and enjoy my ramen.

The ramen was pretty good. Not overly salty, the broth was on the mild side. I figured the toppings would be average and they were. The noodles were good, stayed firm till the end. I ate every last drop.

Wandered around, bought some Kitkats and a bottle of water. Somehow while I was doing that this little kitsune found his way into my bag. Guess I have to start giving him offerings or something now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hiroshima Okonomiyaki at Santakumi

Yes "Wakako Zake" is why I went to Tau Hiroshima. Not just because of the episode set there but because of their okonomiyaki episode. I saw that while preparing for my trips and the wish for Hiroshima style okonomiyaki set in. Sadly I wasn't going to Hiroshima so I thought I was out of luck. But after viewing the Tau Hiroshima episode in the second season I discovered I didn't have to go to Hiroshima for okonomiyaki.

I could have it in Tokyo. In Ginza. At Santakumi.

Santakumi is on the second floor of TAU, where all the Hiroshima Carp goods are. I was really unsure of myself since I was dining alone. Along with not thinking about how I should remember how to write my name in katakana because it turned out they had a wait list. But no one waiting so I hung out by the front door and eventually was seated at the counter. Where I ordered that Hiroshima oyster okonomiyaki and a beer. Because it was pretty hot in there. And beer goes really well with okonomiyaki.

Part of the fun of a place like this is watching them go through all the steps in making okonomiyaki. Hiroshima style has even more. First the chef spooned some batter on the grill, smoothing it into a circle.

Then the toppings begin. Cabagge, crispy tempura bits, and a variety of dustings. I know there is katsuobushi and seaweed that is part of this.

Bean sprouts and shredded kombu were next. And more mysterious sprinkles. These are getting pretty tall.

Strips of pork on the others, seafood like oysters on mine. A little batter to hold the meat in place.

And the big thriller, can she flip all of that safely?

She did. Takes a lot of experience to do that without having everything go flying or end up a big mess.

Meanwhile wheat flour yakisoba noodles are cooking at the other end of the grill.

Another flip and the okonomiyaki is on top of the noodles.

But it doesn't end there. Because eggs are frying.

Now the okonomiyaki is put on top of that with the pancake side up and once the egg is fully cooked it's flipped one last time.

The top with the egg gets a nice coating of okonomiyaki sauce, a sprinkle of green nori seaweed and in my case some lovely tempura Hiroshima oysters.

They slide your order over to you where it sits on the grill being kept warm. There are little spatulas which you use to eat your okonomiyaki. Or you can use chopsticks. Nice noodles under there.

Along with the delicious oysters.

When in Rome...or at an okonomiyaki shop you can also put mayo on top.

This was really delicious and very filling. I felt bad because I could not finish it. But really glad I went to Santakumi. Because the food was really good and the service was too.

Santakumi's information is on the TAU website here and they have it in both English and Japanese. It's a small place so be prepared to write your name in Japanese on the wait list if they are busy. I do recommend Santakumi for their Hiroshima okonomiyaki. It was a really good experience.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

TAU of Ginza

So what was it I wanted to find in Ginza?

I wanted to find Hiroshima.

That is TAU Setouchi Hiroshima. I do not know why I did not see it the first day I went looking. Maybe it's easier to see at night because of the lit signs?

Home of a lot of Hiroshima Toyo Carp gear

and restaurants.

Where you can dine on Hiroshima cuisine.

Along with having a lot of things made with lemons and a lot of other products that come from Hiroshima.

So how did I know about this place? From a Japanese show called "Wakako Zake". I first saw the anime and then started watching the live version. It's about the enjoyment of food. The main character Murasaki Wakako is from Hiroshima so one episode she visited TAU. Since you can't take photos inside the store I grabbed a shot from that episode. Wakako is at the door. That center shelf is full of lemon pastries. I know, because I grabbed a few when the store was closing.

It may seem strange to buy lemon pastries like this but they were perfect for hot summer weather.

The gâteau was nice. Because it was a little crumbled I ate that first on the plane. Really that was my reason for buying a few things I could take with me. Since I was wise to the fact that the food wasn't going to be very good.

The rest made it home with me so I enjoyed each one on different days. First was the Toraya lemon cake. Toraya is Japanese Western sweets shop in Hiroshima along with selling their products throughout Japan. This was a lovely cake and I wish I could get more. The balance of sour and sweet was just right.

This fun looking little pastry looks like it would be really sour with the lemon slices on top but actually it wasn't. This treat from Renoka and the lemon was soft and a bit sweet. Also was really delicious.

This little Hiroshima lemon tart from Mike didn't fare so well. Still was very enjoyable with my tea.

This last purchase isn't pastry. I had told my friend in Japan that I realized what is missing in a lot of Japanese food in America is the flavor that comes from katsuobushi. I don't know if it's the quality or just that a lot of places do not use enough in their recipes. I told her I wanted to get some in Tokyo. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to find some so when I saw this inexpensive Hiroshima Toyo Carp katsuobushi I couldn't resist. Makes me laugh a little to see it.

TAU Hiroshima Brand Shop's website is here. They are located at   〒104-0061
1-6-10, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Ginza top one building

So while I've showed you what I bought at TAU I still haven't written why I went there. That's the next post.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ginza Redux

Running out of time I had to decide what I most wanted to do. I still had not gone to Tsukiji but the thought of being around raw fish in that heat was not appealing to me. There was also that place in Ginza that I had not found. So back I went as the sun was going down and the lights were coming on.

Really this is when it's the time to go to Ginza. No longer were the buildings dull and gray. They now had a sparkle and a glow.

Some were even fascinating like the Chanel shop with it's video playing on the building as you walked down the street.

Of course there was the cute like this Cartier leopard.

As I looked at these buildings I realized I was less interested in what was being sold inside than how the outside looked.

Well not with every building. If I wasn't headed to another place I would have stopped in at Fugetsudo. I love their wafer cookies.

I know I've read about N9Y somewhere. American style steak house. Not what I was looking for. Plenty of those places back home. Although I don't eat steak.

Cute summer dresses at Miu Miu.

Just had to add this photo of their building.

Another chic food boutique with giant images of what looks like pastries. Caught my attention. But this wasn't the place either. It wasn't far from here.

It may seem odd with all the western high fashion stores there is this shop featuring very expensive looking obi. Except it's not. Because in Ginza there is another type of business there. The wedding business. I was surprised at the large number of places that sold wedding items and services. So many that it makes me think that it must be a "thing" to have a Ginza wedding. So it's no surprise there is also high end kimono there too since some wear them as part of their wedding.

The moon over shiny Ginza as I left the place I wanted to go to. I found it and that will be in my next post.